Hike 50 – Cape Horn Loop

In the summer, it is much easier to hike after work. There is so much daylight. My sister drove out to Troutdale and met me after summer camp. We were on the way to our hike before 4. We avoided the northbound I205 traffic by taking Airport Way and headed quickly east on Highway 14. We were hiking by 4:45, not bad considering.

Cape Horn is technically the gorge hike that is closest to the metro. It may seem surprising that we haven’t done it yet, but there are protected bird habitats along the trail and portions of it are closed much of the year. If I’m going to do a loop, it want to do the whole thing. That’s the entire point of a loop. Look up the closures BEFORE you go. It’s worth it. I promise.

In the Portland Hiker’s Field Guide, the description of this hike is extremely detailed. The author explains that he included so much description due to poor signage. That was not our experience. In fact, we have never seen a better signed trail. The trail is incredibly clear and easy as pie to follow. You can do the whole loop with no directions and you’ll be just fine. You head across the parking lot and follow the signs up. There are a few switchbacks. This is the “difficult” portion of the trail, but honestly, this is one of the easier trails we have ever hiked. Officially, it is somewhere between 6.8 and 7.5 (differing sources) long and 1630 feet in elevation change. I did not feel 1630 feet in gain. It was definitely disguised through gentle switchbacks and lots of alternating downhill.

There are amazing, amazing gorge views all along the trail. There are six separate viewpoints and they are all worth a look. There were a ton of berries in bloom and everything smelled like them. None of the berries were edible though. My sister told me specifically not to eat them. I figured they would taste like burning. It was another instance of her giving me advice that is not necessary though. I wonder what she thinks is going on in my mind.

At a little less than half way through the hike, you cross through a tunnel to the other side of Highway 14 and you head down, down, down, down, down. It scared me. I was worried about ending with some huge ascent. It was lovely though. I would NEVER recommend going the other way. It would be a “hell of a journey,” as my friend Jeremy would say. On this bottom portion, you cross amazing scree fields and huge boulders. There are a variety of bridges and waterfalls. It is truly lovely. You get close enough to the river that it almost seems like you could jump in. Only at a closer look do you realize you are still quite high above it.

After some gentle ascent and even more descent, you wind your way through to a road. Then you walk up a “gentle incline” to the trail head. My sister said it is not a gentle incline, but it really is compared to the trail down. For those who dislike road walking, it kind of sucks to walk 1.3 miles on a road to end a hike. It is a totally remote road with two houses on it and we didn’t see another living soul, but still.  The only other criticism I have is the proximity to Highway 14. You never quite get far enough away from it that you don’t hear it. I dislike that. My sister explained to me that it wasn’t a highway but a roaring river or babbling brook. Then she started singing the imagination song from Wonder Showzen. I would link it, but I can’t find it. I would need some high powered liquid imagination to believe that, Jessie, and we don’t have any.

We have never hiked so late in the evening before. It was quite pleasant. The light was waning and the temperature was perfect. We saw a ton of super cutie-pants doggies too. Gotta love the doggies. We were very hungry by the end and eagerly awaiting the pizza we had vowed to get after the hike. We normally get pizza at Mississippi Pizza, because they have the gluten free goodness, but that is so far away. My phone died so my sister did a quick search and we headed toward Flying Pie. It did not disappoint. I was a wreck because my phone was dead and I was supposed to hang out with someone. That same someone totally ditched me that night and then dumped me the next morning, so I immensely regret rushing through dinner and fretting and not giving my sister my full attention. I suck. Lesson learned. There are some people in your life who are worth your time. Give it to them, dammit.

For information about the Cape Horn Loop click here.



Hike 49 – Vista Ridge to Perry Lake

We got an early start. We left my house at 8am. We stopped at Fred Meyer for snacks and headed east. We drove FOREVER. Then we finally reached the trail head. It didn’t seem like an entirely horrible drive because of good company and excellent music. I just really wanted to be out of the car. It’s not a long hike, 6.5 miles with 1000 feet of elevation, but there is a lot of bang for your buck. From the parking lot, you head up, but it’s only a slight incline. At the map, you go left from the actual Vista Ridge trail to a newly restored old Vista Ridge Trail.

As you climb there are some beautiful viewpoints of majestic Mt. Hood. We stopped several times to check it out. Then the attack began. I can’t even begin to describe the attack. It’s especially hard to talk about right at this minute since I am currently suffering the unbearable consequences. I’m not really sure if we even noticed when the swarm arrived. It was one bite. Then another. We swatted them away and prattled on. Then there was a realization. An infinite amount of mosquitoes were destroying us. My sister had bug spray on and still got a couple of bites. Alex and I did not. Between us, I would estimate we have around 7,000 mosquito bites. They are EVERYWHERE. Both of us started to develop gigantic lumps covering every inch of exposed skin. For whatever reason, they were particularly keen on our shoulders. So so so many mosquitoes.

Eventually we reached a beautiful, flat marshy area. That seemed to be their origin. We wanted to stop and take in the sites, but it wasn’t possible. We had to get away. It was difficult to keep from running. We did walk very fast though. Eventually we reached the summit of our hike and at that point there was wind. Wind means fewer mosquitoes. They definitely weren’t gone, but they were bearable at least. We started to descend toward Perry Lake and the number of blood-suckers went drastically up. I wanted to keep going but Jessie and Alex were not having it. We headed back the way we came, about a half mile from our planned final destination, and walked on a spur trail to Owl Point. Owl Point was incredible. We had lake views and mountain views and sat atop a scree field drinking water and eating our various snacks. It was incredible. There is a geocache there. We added to the journal. I warned of the mosquitoes, but by the time the poor bastards read it, it will be too late.

After our brief respite, we headed back down with mixed emotions. We  knew we had to go back through the dreaded marsh. On cue, they started to descend upon us. It was too much for Alex. He put on my rain coat despite the rising temperatures. I think it probably saved him. They really thought he was delicious. It was really bad, but eventually they thinned out at least, and we did make it back to Sid and the safety of “indoors.” My sister killed a mosquito in the car.

Our discussion today, as usual, was of many things: Alex’s trip to the Grand Canyon with his family, our three remaining hikes, and Jessie’s engagement! Yep, that happened. On Saturday night, in front of his family and ours, Sharock asked Jessie to marry him. It was lovely. I get a new brother-in-law. Very cool.

There are a lot of hikes from the Vista Ridge trail head. I would like to do more. I will never hike without bug repellent again.

For information about Vista Ridge to Perry Lake click here.

Hike 48 – Dog Mountain

Hikes have difficulty ratings. They are generally easy, moderate, or difficult. In the 47 hikes we have done up until now we have never done an easy hike and we have never done a difficult hike. My friend, Jeremy Wedell, has been telling me about the glory of Dog Mountain since before I started hiking. It’s by far his favorite and he assured me that my sister and I could handle it. I was skeptical. It is a difficult hike. It’s just shy of 7 miles long and has 2800 feet of elevation gain. Many of the steepest sections are on loose gravel and I am just so damn clumsy. We only had 5 hikes left. It was time to put on our big girl pants and just do it.

Why we always decide to do the hardest hikes right after a super party-filled night, I will never understand. I guess, really, it’s good for us. But seriously, the first couple miles I thought I was going to die. We had tons of fun on the 4th. We ate terrible food and didn’t get enough sleep. Dog Mountain starts steep and it stays steep throughout. There are a few flattish sections that offer a slight respite, but for the most part you are headed up and and up and up.

The only thing more amazing than the difficulty of the hike is the beauty, particularly at the top. As you struggle up the steepest portion you have yet to climb on slipping and sliding gravel and stones, you are simultaneously crossing the most beautiful meadow I have ever encountered. We just caught the end of the wildflower bloom. I can’t even imagine what it looks like in May/June. The wind just howls across this meadow portion, which I’m sure makes it super scary if it’s wet. Luckily our weather was perfect.

We definitely took note of the fact that about 85% of the hikers were female. There were many groups of women headed up the difficult trail and loving it. Girl Power! When we finally got to the top, after two hours, we could see majestic Mt. Hood peaking over the top of the gorge. It was beautiful. We sat down for a moment, appreciated the view and then headed back down the way we came up. There are several different routes and choices on the hike. We liked the “less difficult” trail, not because we’re weak, because it is more scenic and offers spectacular views.

We saw a lot of wild life on the hike. I saw the biggest snake I have ever seen not in a zoo. It really freaked me out. I am no snake fan. But that paled in comparison to what happened as we neared the end of our hike. Although Dog Mountain is a well-traveled and populated hike, we found ourselves alone in a heavily wooded portion of the trail. I heard a crashing sound in the distance and looked toward it. I told my sister to stop moving because a black bear was SPRINTING through the forest about 50 feet away from us. It crossed the trail right in front of us and stopped. We just stayed still and hoped it wouldn’t come toward us. After what seemed like an eternity, but was actually more like 10 seconds, it kept running in to the forest in the same direction it was running before. We very quickly and very quietly continued down the trail looking behind us the whole way. My sister said, “There is too much nature on this trail.” We also researched what you should do in the event of a bear attack. If it’s a black bear, which it was, you’re supposed to fight it. I’m really glad it didn’t attack us.

Much like every other steep descent that we’ve made, I fell multiple times. My clumsiness is that of legend. At least this time I didn’t break my toe, or screw up my knee, or bleed anywhere. It’s just a scrape and some dirt. We made it back to Sid with a four hour round trip. It was totally worth every minute.

For information about Dog Mountain click here.